After our stay at the Fairmont Olympic in Seattle, we boarded a large bus outside the hotel which took us to our 90,000 ton Alaskan vessel, Jewel Of The Seas. The cruise ship was not only a first for me but also the first for several family members. Needless to say for all the readers who have been on one, we were in awe as our eyes looked upward at the 13 decks.

Once on the ship, we were introduced to an amazing buffet, a regular offer for breakfast and lunch, with a more formal dinner each evening. Then, we located our rooms, rooms very adequate in preparation for all the events scheduled on and off the ship. The flushing sound of the toilet inspired some jokes, and the small shower area created challenges when reaching for slippery and mishandled soap on the floor.

Our first stop was at Juneau, Alaska. It is where I, as well as others in our party, stepped on Alaskan soil for the first time. I thought of the great deal we got when purchasing Alaska from Russia in 1867, $7.2 million for $0.02 per acre. It was a rainy day with mild temperatures. I chose to return to the ship quickly to participate in a table tennis tournament while the others ventured off in a small boat to search for whales. Whale watching reportedly went well with around thirty sightings. I was the only table tennis player to show up but eventually practiced with an entertainer for the ship, Mike Wilson, a comedian who takes on the motions and voices, even singing voices, of many stars. As it turned out, getting to know Mike and his heart for others was much better than playing in any tourney.

Our next stop was Skagway, Alaska. The first thing I noticed was the wooden sidewalks. I could not believe the number of jewelry stores on the streets we explored. Each seemed to offer a free charm; thus, we went inside several. One building that particularly impressed me with its rustic architecture, the Arctic Brotherhood Hall built in 1899, has a unique exterior covered with driftwood. When reading information inside, I found it was one of the most photographed buildings in Alaska.

Our third stop required staying on the boat and finding a good viewing station for a magnificent sight, Tracy Arm Fjord. For about 35 miles, there are steep granite walls with hundreds of waterfalls. At the very end, and framed by mountains on each side, was the Sawyer Glacier. Our 30-year-old captain, Dustin Castelsky, did a marvelous job getting us in and out of this beautiful area while dodging a few icebergs.

After being at sea for many hours, we arrived at a Canadian stop, Victoria, the capital of the British Columbia province. I chose to view the city from the ship and play in another table tennis tourney. A left-handed sixteen year old lady beat me and as well as other players to finish first. Victoria is known as Garden City, where the temperature seldom falls below 32 F, and the others came back with stories of flowers all-around enhancing the beauty of the city. The number of tourists visiting each year is staggering!

In all my life, I have never been treated as well as I was on the Royal Caribbean Cruise. There were approximately 2,500 passengers and over 800 workers representing 50 nations. Whenever we rested in our room and then left, we would come back to a perfectly made bed with some type of towel creation, such as a swan. During the breakfast and lunch buffet, empty plates would be picked up immediately by courteous workers. While dining in the evening, we had two personal waiters for our table. They served each of us as if we were royalty! Several times during the week, the kitchen workers joined our servers on a stairway to sing songs that would delight the entire napkin waving crowd.

None of us will forget and always be grateful to the special lady who chose to give our family a very unique gift, an Alaska Cruise. Even with my balance issues, I 'm glad I agreed to be a First Timer!